It’s true … there are plenty of fish in the sea. If you had to choose just one to put on your plate, though, salmon would definitely be a great choice! The fatty fish is a nutritional powerhouse that’s loaded with good-for-you Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It’s for that reason that salmon is known as one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
1) Salmon Is Rich in Vitamin D
Throughout the years, we have been hearing a lot more about the importance of vitamin D. Numerous studies link a lack of this key vitamin to health issues such as depression, heart disease, various cancers, pregnancy problems, birth defects, poor bone health, and more. Now, here is another scary fact for you — nearly half of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient.
Along with spending some more time in the sunshine, a great way you can boost your vitamin D level is to eat more fish, particularly salmon. Salmon is one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D. In fact, just one single serving of salmon contains more than an entire day’s recommended amount of vitamin D.
*You can find out if you are vitamin D deficient by taking a simple blood test. Talk to your doctor if you would like to be tested.
2) Salmon Supports Heart Health
Salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have major heart health benefits. According to The American Heart Association, consuming sufficient amounts of Omega-3 fats can lower a person’s high blood pressure and reduce the fatty plaques inside their artery walls. It can also reduce a person’s risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), stroke, and heart attack.
In one study, researchers investigated the association between fish consumption and the risk of sudden cardiac death. To do this, they followed more than 20,500 male physicians in the U.S. for 11 years. In the end, they found that men who consumed fish at least once a week had a 50 percent lower risk of dying from a sudden cardiac event than men who ate fish less than once a month.
Doctors also say eating two servings of fish a week can lower your risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent.
3) Salmon Is Considered a “Brain Food”
Omega-3 rich foods (including salmon) have been shown to benefit cognitive function in a variety of ways. Scientists say they can see a clear difference in people as young as toddlers. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children between the ages of 3 to 5 years old who consumed Omega-3 fats as infants scored higher on intelligence tests than children who didn’t include the key nutrient in their diet. This is far from the only study that links Omega-3 fats to children’s learning ability.
Other studies have linked low docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels with poor memory and lower reading skills. DHA is a type of Omega-3 fat that’s usually found in animal-based foods, such as salmon. This just goes to show that feeding your child salmon from a young age could be beneficial.
Don’t stop eating the delicious fish as an adult, though. Salmon’s brain-boosting benefits have been shown to improve adult brains too! Scientists link low Omega-3 fatty acid levels to cognitive aging, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. While more research is needed, scientists believe DHA play a major role in helping protect against such devastating illnesses.
In one study that looked at senior citizens with age-related cognitive decline, scientists found those who took 900 milligrams of DHA every day scored slightly better on a computerized memory test than those who received a placebo.
In another study, seniors were broken into three groups: one group ate fish less than once a week, another ate fish once a week, and a third group ate fish twice a week. Throughout the study, they had to perform in-home cognitive assessments (three times over six years of follow-up). Researchers found seniors who ate fish once or twice a week showed a slower cognitive decline than participants who ate fish less than once a week.
So with all of these astounding results, you may be questioning “How?”
How do the Omega-3s in salmon actually impact our cognitive health? Well, according to researchers, Omega-3s can boost grey matter in the brain. They have found weekly consumption of baked or broiled fish to have a positive association with grey matter volumes. This is crucial for a healthy brain since grey matter is dark tissue in the brain that contains neurons that process information and store memories.
Please note: While many studies attribute salmon’s “brain food” status to its rich Omega-3s, other vitamins and minerals that are abundant in the pink fish do play a role in keeping the brain healthy too.
4) Salmon May Improve Mood & Fight Depression
In the last section, we talked a little about grey matter in the brain and how it impacts our cognitive function. I told you that grey matter is tissue that helps the brain process information. Now, we’re going to dig a little deeper into that topic.
Researchers at The University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences interviewed 55 healthy adults to determine their average intake of long-chain Omega-3 fats. Then, they used high-resolution MRIs to evaluate grey matter volume. They discovered participants who had high levels of long-chain Omega-3s also had higher volumes of grey matter in areas of the brain that are associated with emotional arousal. The findings suggest consuming Omega-3 rich foods, such as salmon, may “promote structural improvement in areas of the brain related to mood and emotion regulation, the same areas where grey matter is reduced in people who have mood disorders such as major depressive disorder.”
For this reason, researchers say people who eat salmon regularly are much less likely to fall into a slump of depression. Additionally, people who have already been diagnosed with depression and take anti-depressant medications may find adding salmon to their diet useful. In one study, researchers found people who took Omega-3 fatty acids in addition to their prescription antidepressants had a greater improvement in symptoms than those who took antidepressants alone.
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